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Atlantis: what did Plato get wrong?


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#1    granpa

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Posted 08 October 2013 - 05:48 PM

http://religion.wikia.com/wiki/Timaeus

Quote

In the Egyptian Delta, at the head of which the river Nile divides, there is a certain district which is called the district of Sais, and the great city of the district is also called Sais, and is the city from which King Amasis came. The citizens have a deity for their foundress; she is called in the Egyptian tongue Neith, and is asserted by them to be the same whom the Hellenes call Athene; they are great lovers of the Athenians, and say that they are in some way related to them.

To this city came Solon, and was received there with great honour; he asked the priests who were most skilful in such matters, about antiquity, and made the discovery that neither he nor any other Hellene knew anything worth mentioning about the times of old. On one occasion, wishing to draw them on to speak of antiquity, he began to tell about the most ancient things in our part of the world-about Phoroneus, who is called "the first man," and about Niobe; and after the Deluge, of the survival of Deucalion and Pyrrha; and he traced the genealogy of their descendants, and reckoning up the dates, tried to compute how many years ago the events of which he was speaking happened.

Thereupon one of the priests, who was of a very great age, said: O Solon, Solon, you Hellenes are never anything but children, and there is not an old man among you. Solon in return asked him what he meant. I mean to say, he replied, that in mind you are all young; there is no old opinion handed down among you by ancient tradition, nor any science which is hoary with age. And I will tell you why.

There have been, and will be again, many destructions of mankind arising out of many causes; the greatest have been brought about by the agencies of fire and water, and other lesser ones by innumerable other causes. There is a story, which even you have preserved, that once upon a time Paethon, the son of Helios, having yoked the steeds in his father's chariot, because he was not able to drive them in the path of his father, burnt up all that was upon the earth, and was himself destroyed by a thunderbolt. Now this has the form of a myth, but really signifies a declination of the bodies moving in the heavens around the earth, and a great conflagration of things upon the earth, which recurs after long intervals; at such times those who live upon the mountains and in dry and lofty places are more liable to destruction than those who dwell by rivers or on the seashore. And from this calamity the Nile, who is our never-failing saviour, delivers and preserves us.

When, on the other hand, the gods purge the earth with a deluge of water, the survivors in your country are herdsmen and shepherds who dwell on the mountains, but those who, like you, live in cities are carried by the rivers into the sea. Whereas in this land, neither then nor at any other time, does the water come down from above on the fields, having always a tendency to come up from below; for which reason the traditions preserved here are the most ancient.

As for those genealogies of yours which you just now recounted to us, Solon, they are no better than the tales of children. In the first place you remember a single deluge only, but there were many previous ones; in the next place, you do not know that there formerly dwelt in your land the fairest and noblest race of men which ever lived, and that you and your whole city are descended from a small seed or remnant of them which survived.

the goddess who is the common patron and parent and educator of both our cities. She founded your city a thousand years before ours, receiving from the Earth and Hephaestus the seed of your race, and afterwards she founded ours, of which the constitution is recorded in our sacred registers to be eight thousand years old. As touching your citizens of nine thousand years ago, I will briefly inform you of their laws and of their most famous action;

Many great and wonderful deeds are recorded of your state in our histories. But one of them exceeds all the rest in greatness and valour. For these histories tell of a mighty power which unprovoked made an expedition against the whole of Europe and Asia, and to which your city put an end. This power came forth out of the Atlantic Ocean, for in those days the Atlantic was navigable; and there was an island situated in front of the straits which are by you called the Pillars of Heracles; the island was larger than Libya and Asia put together, and was the way to other islands, and from these you might pass to the whole of the opposite continent which surrounded the true ocean; for this sea which is within the Straits of Heracles is only a harbour, having a narrow entrance, but that other is a real sea, and the surrounding land may be most truly called a boundless continent. Now in this island of Atlantis there was a great and wonderful empire which had rule over the whole island and several others, and over parts of the continent, and, furthermore, the men of Atlantis had subjected the parts of Libya within the columns of Heracles as far as Egypt, and of Europe as far as Tyrrhenia. This vast power, gathered into one, endeavoured to subdue at a blow our country and yours and the whole of the region within the straits; and then, Solon, your country shone forth, in the excellence of her virtue and strength, among all mankind. She was pre-eminent in courage and military skill, and was the leader of the Hellenes. And when the rest fell off from her, being compelled to stand alone, after having undergone the very extremity of danger, she defeated and triumphed over the invaders, and preserved from slavery those who were not yet subjugated, and generously liberated all the rest of us who dwell within the pillars. But afterwards there occurred violent earthquakes and floods; and in a single day and night of misfortune all your warlike men in a body sank into the earth, and the island of Atlantis in like manner disappeared in the depths of the sea. For which reason the sea in those parts is impassable and impenetrable, because there is a shoal of mud in the way; and this was caused by the subsidence of the island.

http://religion.wikia.com/wiki/Critias

Quote

Let me begin by observing first of all, that nine thousand was the sum of years which had elapsed since the war which was said to have taken place between those who dwelt outside the pillars of Heracles and all who dwelt within them;
this war I am going to describe.
Of the combatants on the one side, the city of Athens was reported to have been the leader and to have fought out the war; the combatants on the other side were commanded by the kings of Atlantis, which, as I was saying, was an island greater in extent than Libya and Asia, and when afterwards sunk by an earthquake, became an impassable barrier of mud to voyagers sailing from hence to any part of the ocean.

Many great deluges have taken place during the nine thousand years, for that is the number of years which have elapsed since the time of which I am speaking;


In the first place the Acropolis was not as now.
For the fact is that a single night of excessive rain washed away the earth and laid bare the rock;
at the same time there were earthquakes, and then occurred the extraordinary inundation, which was the third before the great destruction of Deucalion.

And Poseidon, receiving for his lot the island of Atlantis, begat children by a mortal woman, and settled them in a part of the island, which I will describe.
Looking towards the sea, but in the centre of the whole island, there was a plain which is said to have been the fairest of all plains and very fertile.
Near the plain again, and also in the centre of the island at a distance of about fifty stadia (7.85 km), there was a mountain not very high on any side.


The whole country was said by him to be very lofty and precipitous on the side of the sea, but the country immediately about and surrounding the city was a level plain, itself surrounded by mountains which descended towards the sea;
it was smooth and even, and of an oblong shape, extending in one direction (diagonally?) three thousand stadia (470 km), but across the centre inland it was two thousand stadia (315 km).
This part of the island looked towards the south, and was sheltered from the north.
The surrounding mountains were celebrated for their number and size and beauty, far beyond any which still exist, having in them also many wealthy villages of country folk, and rivers, and lakes, and meadows supplying food enough for every animal, wild or tame, and much wood of various sorts, abundant for each and every kind of work.

I will now describe the plain, as it was fashioned by nature and by the labours of many generations of kings through long ages.
It was for the most part rectangular and oblong, and where falling out of the straight line followed the circular ditch.
The depth, and width, and length of this ditch were incredible, and gave the impression that a work of such extent, in addition to so many others, could never have been artificial.
Nevertheless I must say what I was told.
It was excavated to the depth of a hundred feet, and its breadth was a stadium everywhere;
it was carried round the whole of the plain, and was ten thousand stadia (1570 km) in length.

many theories have been put forward regarding the location of atlantis
Posted Image

for the sake of this thread lets assume that atlantis is a real place and not just imaginary.

if every word of platos account is taken literally then no such island can possibly exist so something that he wrote has to be wrong.
my question is: what part do you think plato got wrong and why did he get it wrong?
I've already given my theory here.

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Edited by granpa, 08 October 2013 - 06:09 PM.

I have cooked you a meal, cut it into little pieces, and set it before you  but I'm not going to chew it for you
And no one is forcing you to eat it. If you dont want it then dont eat it.

I am not a big believer in science by combat.
Arguing doesn't establish who is right. Arguing only establishes who is the better arguer.

#2    cormac mac airt

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Posted 08 October 2013 - 06:09 PM

View Postgranpa, on 08 October 2013 - 05:48 PM, said:

http://religion.wikia.com/wiki/Timaeus



http://religion.wikia.com/wiki/Critias



many theories have been put forward regarding the location of atlantis
Posted Image

for the sake of this thread lets assume that atlantis is a real place and not just imaginary.

if every word of platos account is taken literally then no such island can possibly exist so something that he wrote has to be wrong.
my question is: what part do you think plato got wrong and why did he get it wrong?

Posted Image

Posted Image

Assuming Atlantis was real is how we've ended up with the mess we now have to begin with.

What did Plato get wrong? Easy, he assumed people were smart enough to know what an allegory is. His mistake since many apparently can't tell the difference between an allegory and reality.

cormac

The city and citizens, which you yesterday described to us in fiction, we will now transfer to the world of reality. It shall be the ancient city of Athens, and we will suppose that the citizens whom you imagined, were our veritable ancestors, of whom the priest spoke; they will perfectly harmonise, and there will be no inconsistency in saying that the citizens of your republic are these ancient Athenians. --  Plato's Timaeus

#3    granpa

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Posted 08 October 2013 - 06:12 PM

but which parts are allegory and which parts are literal?

I have cooked you a meal, cut it into little pieces, and set it before you  but I'm not going to chew it for you
And no one is forcing you to eat it. If you dont want it then dont eat it.

I am not a big believer in science by combat.
Arguing doesn't establish who is right. Arguing only establishes who is the better arguer.

#4    questionmark

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Posted 08 October 2013 - 06:23 PM

Plato got nothing wrong, as it is pretty difficult to get anything wrong in an allegory... now some of those who read the dialogue got something wrong. Very wrong in fact.

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#5    cormac mac airt

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Posted 08 October 2013 - 06:27 PM

View Postgranpa, on 08 October 2013 - 06:12 PM, said:

but which parts are allegory and which parts are literal?

Solon existed. Athens and Sais existed, except that neither did so in any meaningful way relevant to the story prior to the 1st or 2nd millenium BC. The Pillars of Hercules existed in the western Mediterranean.

What didn't exist was a civilization in the western Mediterranean c.9600 BC. Nor one with Bronze Age technologies at that time. Nor Athens or Sais at that time. Nor any evidence of an earthquake that destroyed both an area outside the Pillars of Hercules as well as peoples of Athens at the same time. Nor evidence that anyone at any time defeated Egypt but was defeated in turn by Athens. Nor any evidence that Solon himself even knew anything about the story of Atlantis.

There aren't parts of the story that are an allegory, the story as a whole is an allegorical tale.

cormac

Edited by cormac mac airt, 08 October 2013 - 06:28 PM.

The city and citizens, which you yesterday described to us in fiction, we will now transfer to the world of reality. It shall be the ancient city of Athens, and we will suppose that the citizens whom you imagined, were our veritable ancestors, of whom the priest spoke; they will perfectly harmonise, and there will be no inconsistency in saying that the citizens of your republic are these ancient Athenians. --  Plato's Timaeus

#6    docyabut2

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Posted 09 October 2013 - 12:27 AM

Ulf Richter said it best qoute-
you were discussing the time of the destruction of Atlantis according to Plato´s texts.
I will try to explain my doubts about the "9000 years" for the war (not for the foundation!) of Atlantis:
Reading thoroughfully the whole Timaios and Critias of Plato in the different translations, I found a
serious logical discrepancy concerning the frequently cited „ 9000 years before Solon“:

1) In Tim23E is written: that the institutions in Egypt (religion, tempels, priests, state) were founded 8000 years before Solon, and those of Athens still 1000 years earlier:
„She (the goddess Neith = Athene) founded your city (Athens) a thousand years before ours, receiving from the Earth and Hephaestus the seed of your race, and afterwards she founded ours (Sais/Egypt), of which the constitution is recorded in our sacred registers to be eight thousand years old. As touching your citizens of 9000 years ago, I will briefly inform you of their laws and of their most famous action; " (transl. Jowett) . In the following chapters is described, that a war between the peoples inside and outside of the pillars of Hercules took place, but not necessarily 9000 years before Solon (where the state of Athens
was just founded and could not have been able to withstand an Atlantis power of 1200 battle ships), but "once upon a time " (Tim.24E, transl. R.G.Bury, like in the german translations; unfortunately in the translation of B. Jowett this sentence is left off).

2) After this first mentioning , by Critias, of the first state of Athens and its enemy, the state of Atlantis, the discourse went on with a long speech of Timaios about quite a different topic. During the next night Critias read through the records Solon had made during his visit in Sais, which Critias inherited from his grandfather, Critias the Elder, a relative of Solon. From this recapitulation he could tell about all the institutions and buildings in Atlantis with the astonishing details in numbers and dimensions. But obviously he did not find a date for the war between Athens and Atlantis in Solon´s records, and remembered from the last day only the number of 9000 years, which was however given there for the date of the foundation of Athens. He mixed this number up with the number of years for the war, which he would report on this morning, and said: “Now first of all we must recall the fact that 9000 was the sum of years since the war occurred, as is recorded, between the dwellers beyond the Pillars of Heracles and all those that dwelt within them; which war we have now to relate in detail . . .” (transl. Bury)

In this sentence Critias made two logical errors: first he connected the 9000 years not with the inauguration of Athens by the goddess Athene, but with the war between Athens and Atlantis, and secondly he forgot, that half of the population inside the Pillars of Heracles, namely the Libyans and the Europeans between the Pillars and Tuscany, were not on the side of the Athenians, but on the side of the Atlanteans.

It is obvious that this sentence was a rhetorical ornament at the beginning of a new narration, and that Critias (or Plato) mixed up two of the yesterday narrated events. On the day before, the date of the war was never mentioned, and so it was not possible to “recall” it. And it is completely illogical, that in the year of its foundation a state could defeat an enemy as mighty as Atlantis with 1200 ships and 1.2 millions of warriors.
If the war would have taken place 9000 years before Solon, how could the Athenians save the Egyptian or Saitic people, which had its foundation according to Platon´s text 1000 years later? How could the Egyptian priests write down this story, when Egypt and a priestly class didn´t exist for further 1000 years?
But a great part of the "Atlantologists" take from this obviously illogical sentence the proof, that Atlantis was destroyed 9000 years before Solon.

3) The third mentioning of the 9000 years is in Crit 111B : „Many great deluges have taken place during the nine thousand years, for that is the number of years which have elapsed since the time of which I am speaking“, namely, between the time when the land around Athens was the best and fruitful in the world and the time of Solon, when due to the deluges all soil was washed into the sea and only „the mere skeleton of the land being left“ (transl. Jowett).
This third citation of the 9000 years has nothing to do with the war or with the destruction of Atlantis!

The three different citations of the "9000 years" in Plato´s texts are meaning three different events! The second citation ("9000 is the sum of years since the war occurred . .") must be an obvious error of Critias (or Plato).
No date for the destruction and sinking of Atlantis is found in the texts. (only: "at a later time . .")

From the above mentioned it is obvious, that from Plato´s texts an exact date for the war between Athens and Atlantis and the later destruction of both cannot be taken.
The war took place “once upon a time” (Tim. 24E), and the destruction still "at a later time" (Tim.25C) And this “once upon a time” could well be in the Bronze Age, as the narrated weapons of the Atlanteans suggest.


#7    docyabut2

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Posted 09 October 2013 - 12:32 AM

the third before the great destruction of Deucalion.
some say it was the third of the great destructions of daucalion


#8    DieChecker

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Posted 10 October 2013 - 12:29 AM

I have to agree that Atlantis was not intended to be taken realistically. Plato was using a fictional place and events as background for his political/social story.

It does not exist any more then Olympus and the Gods dwellings existed, or Hades and the Underworld. Greek myth is full of imaginary places and Atlantis is just one of them.

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#9    jaylemurph

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Posted 10 October 2013 - 12:58 AM

View Postgranpa, on 08 October 2013 - 06:12 PM, said:

but which parts are allegory and which parts are literal?

I assume by this question that fiction, in general, to you is an impenterable morass and that you cannot function in literate society for confounding reality with every book you've ever read.

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#10    granpa

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Posted 10 October 2013 - 01:01 AM

perhaps you missed this part

View Postgranpa, on 08 October 2013 - 05:48 PM, said:

for the sake of this thread lets assume that atlantis is a real place and not just imaginary.

if every word of platos account is taken literally then no such island can possibly exist so something that he wrote has to be wrong.
my question is: what part do you think plato got wrong and why did he get it wrong?
I've already given my theory here.


I have cooked you a meal, cut it into little pieces, and set it before you  but I'm not going to chew it for you
And no one is forcing you to eat it. If you dont want it then dont eat it.

I am not a big believer in science by combat.
Arguing doesn't establish who is right. Arguing only establishes who is the better arguer.

#11    DieChecker

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Posted 10 October 2013 - 01:24 AM

Assuming it is real, then except for the mystical bits about the gods, and the bit about it being 10000 BC, I think that there is nothing preventing the actual city from existing. Oh, and there is no way that a tiny island nation (England?) could conquor so much of the world and then be totally beaten back by some Greek shepards around a proto-Athens village.

Aside from all the mythic events and incredible people, there is nothing preventing Atlantis from being an actual place, I suppose. (If we assume it was more then a story....)

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#12    jaylemurph

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Posted 10 October 2013 - 02:40 AM

View Postgranpa, on 10 October 2013 - 01:01 AM, said:

perhaps you missed this part

No, you missed my point. You clearly admit you lack the facilities on your own to determine what is real and what is allegorical/fictional.

You therefore either have to concede that for such a dichotomy to even exist, most readers /do/ have the ability to distinguish between fiction/allegory and reality whereas you lack this fundamental skill and therefore don't need to critiquing anyone else's skills in doing so, or that no one -- including you -- has this ability to distinguish fiction and reality, and you therefore (still) do not need to be critiquing anyone else's skills in doing so.

It's not so much a question of your own skills then (which you voluntarily concede to not exist, and thereby remove yourself from any position of knowledge or authority in this whole conversation), but whether or not you impute that lack of understanding to the general population without the capacity to judge for yourself.

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Edited by jaylemurph, 10 October 2013 - 02:42 AM.

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#13    granpa

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Posted 10 October 2013 - 02:54 AM

no I gave my interpretation.
I was asking what other people thought

I have cooked you a meal, cut it into little pieces, and set it before you  but I'm not going to chew it for you
And no one is forcing you to eat it. If you dont want it then dont eat it.

I am not a big believer in science by combat.
Arguing doesn't establish who is right. Arguing only establishes who is the better arguer.

#14    Avallaine

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Posted 10 October 2013 - 02:59 AM

It's most likely that Plato came up with the name "Atlantis" to begin with--he's the first one to mention it by that name (that we know of).  Whether he got anything else "wrong" depends on whether you think he was:

A) Inventing an allegory out of whole cloth;

B ) Creating an allegory based on current events like the overnight disappearance of Helike in 373 BCE;

C) Using the myth, or fragments of myth, of a vanished city/island in then-current legend to tell a new tale;

D) Relating the remnants of the story of the eruption of Thera and its effect on Minoan Crete, but renaming it and changing the details for his own purposes;

E) Relating a factual account passed down via Solon from the Egyptians (as he claimed) or by some other means;

F) Tapping into an archetypal myth of a lost "golden age" found in cultures all over the globe;

G) Doing all or some of the above in various combinations;  or...

H) Doing some other thing I haven't covered.


I haven't looked at your theory, but since you have one, why don't you tell us what you think he got wrong...?

Edited by Avallaine, 10 October 2013 - 03:00 AM.


#15    granpa

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Posted 10 October 2013 - 03:05 AM

I gave the link in the op

I have cooked you a meal, cut it into little pieces, and set it before you  but I'm not going to chew it for you
And no one is forcing you to eat it. If you dont want it then dont eat it.

I am not a big believer in science by combat.
Arguing doesn't establish who is right. Arguing only establishes who is the better arguer.




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